What Do Fullbacks Do In Rugby?

With so many players on a rugby field at the one time, each with their own position it can be hard to differentiate what their specific roles are. At times it looks like all players are doing a bit of everything but if you pay attention closely you will be able see what tasks each rugby position is expected to undertake. It is time to help you understand what the role of fullback is in rugby.

What do fullbacks do in rugby?

Fullbacks in rugby play a supporting role in the backline. In defence they stand behind the line ready to retrieve the ball if it has been kicked or tackle a player who has made a linebreak. In attack a fullback will insert themself into the attacking line in different areas based on scripted plays and will be supporting any players that make a linebreak.

If you want to have a big impact on a rugby game both in attack and defence then fullback could be the position for you. 

Fullback is a difficult position on the rugby field. Fullbacks are expected to be strong tacklers in the open field, good territorial kickers, disciplined in maintaining position and excellent at running attacking lines and supporting ball runners.

What Do Fullbacks In Rugby Do In Attack?

In attack fullbacks will typically stand behind the attacking backline. They will then insert themselves into different parts of the backline based on plays called by the five eighth or based on opportunities they identify to attack. 

For example the five eighth might call a play where they throw a cut out pass, bypassing the inside centre to the outside centre who then throws an inside pass to a deep fullback who is sprinting onto the ball.

To be a strong attacking fullback in rugby you need to be excellent at timing your runs and running the correct line. If a fullback inserts himself into the backline too late or quickly or doesn’t run the correct line they can end up causing a turnover through a dropped ball, forward pass or having a poor run where they don’t gain any metres.

Running ideal lines and timing your run in rugby is a difficult skill to master and take years of practice. If you are a fullback this is a skill you must learn to perfect. 

Another key role fullbacks have to master on the rugby field in attack is supporting ball runners. When a rugby player breaks the defensive line and starts running into the open field a good fullback should be sprinting alongside him allowing the ball runner to make an easy pass to the waiting fullback who then can gather the ball and skip away down the field to score a try.

Support running is a skill that looks simple enough but can actually be quite difficult. To be a good support runner in rugby you must be able to anticipate linebreaks, react quickly, run fast, get close to the ball runner, communicate so they know where you are and gather the ball while sprinting.

Fullbacks in rugby score many tries by being strong support runners and gathering the ball as the ball runner who made the initial linebreak passes the ball to avoid being tackled by the last defender.

What Do Fullbacks In Rugby Do In Defence?

In defence fullbacks in rugby stand behind the line, ready to gather the ball after it has been kicked downfield. Fullbacks will collect the ball in  the open and kick it downfield. Fullbacks are also the last line of defence if a ball runner makes a linebreak.

Fullbacks are often dubbed sweepers because of their defensive role in rugby. A fullback will typically stand behind the defensive line. This is so they can easily catch the ball once it has been kicked downfield. Standing behind the defensive line also allows fullbacks to offer a last line of defence in case an opposition ball runner manages to pierce the line and make a linebreak.

If you want to be a fullback you need to be a strong defensive kicker. As collecting the ball after it has been kicked is one of the fullback’s main responsibilities the ideal move after gathering the ball is often to kick the ball back down the field.

A fullback who has a powerful boot can help their side win territory and ensure the game is played far away from their own 22, taking pressure off the side’s defensive line.

As fullbacks play a covering role in the defensive line they need to be fast and strong open field tacklers. For example if an opposing winger makes a linebreak the fullback is expected to sprint across the field, run the winger down and tackle them to the ground in the openfield.

This is extremely difficult but is a vital skill as high level fullbacks are able to prevent many tries through cover tackling ability.

If a rugby team is lacking numbers in their defensive line, commonly known as an overlap, the fullback will then rush up from his typical position behind the line and insert himself alongside his fellow backs. This is done in an attempt to stop the opposing team from simply passing the ball out wide to their unmarked man.

Fullbacks need to have strong game awareness to know when they need to drop back deep to anticipate a kick or when they need to push up when their team is outnumbered. This feel for the game is incredibly important but takes fullbacks years to develop.

How Big Are Fullbacks In Rugby?

The average professional fullback in rugby is 6ft 0 and weighs 90kg (200 pounds). Fullbacks need a blend of size and speed to allow them to sprint when running with the ball, making covering tackles and taking the ball into contact.

Fullbacks have a typical backs physique. They are lean typically with a body fat percentage in the 12% to 15%, medium levels of muscle weighing in at 90kg and average height for a professional rugby player, standing at 6ft 0.

Fullbacks need to be quick to ensure they can get into the correct position and insert themselves effectively into a rugby match at a moments notice.

Fullbacks also need to be strong as they are expected to tackle sprinting ball runners into the openfield and take the ball into contact after running at high speed themselves.

If you want to be a successful rugby fullback you need to work on your speed, endurance, acceleration, agility and your overall strength. Fullbacks are all around athletes that need all athletic attributes to dominate on the rugby pitch.

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